Monday, March 2, 2015

Sapphire Blue Readalong



Well, February is over which means I’ve reread Ruby Red and realized I don’t really know myself as well as I thought I did. It also means we’re closer to tax day, but I’m doing my best not to think about that because it makes me want to turn the Boston Harbor into a giant cup of tea.

But back to my identity crisis.

See, I thought I loved Gideon de Villiers from the first moment I met him. Looking back, I imagined this sweet guy who was also really capable and swoon-worthy and all of the other good things. Except he’s not.

As I reread Ruby Red, I was all “What witchcraft is this?” because Gideon was not kind and he wasn’t swoon-worthy and he was only mostly capable because he did need Gwen to save his life after all.

Then the month ended with me looking at a dress and seeing it go from white and gold to blue and black and back again, and that really cemented this personality disorder. Anyway, what became clear very early in the book is that Ruby Red is about Gwen being awesome and kicking butt even though pretty much everyone but her equally awesome BFF underestimate her.

So if you’re one book in and thinking, “These jackholes promised me a swoon-worthy boy and all I got was Judgy McJudgerson and his Cloak of Superiority,” well, you’re mostly right. But you also got an amazing heroine who learns quickly, stands up for herself, and is basically hilarious.


And there’s more of that in the second book, Sapphire Blue. There’s also a kinder Gideon and a gargoyle who steals every scene he’s in.

Join in the big readalong this month by tweeting your thoughts under the hashtag #SapphireBlueReread.

In other reading news, I have an announcement about the YA Book Club … but you’ll have to wait until Wednesday for that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What's Up Wednesday: The Book Club Revival



I wasn’t planning on doing What’s Up Wednesday today, mostly because I thought it was Tuesday and it wouldn’t have made much sense. Except then I started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if today was really Wednesday and Friday was that much closer?” Usually when this happens I find out it’s actually Sunday.

As you can imagine, I was pleasantly surprised and psyched to join, especially after skipping way too many weeks in a row. So here’s what’s been going on with me:

 

What I’m Reading: This has been the month of readalongs for me. I’m re-reading Kerstin Geir’s Ruby Red as part of our great Ruby Red Reread, which you can learn all about here. It’s just as good a second time. I also joined Jaime Morrow and Katy Upperman in reading Heather Demetrios’s I’ll Meet You There, a really wonderful and at times heartbreaking contemporary YA.

I’m thinking of continuing the readalong trend—but more on that below.

What I’m Writing: I spent most of February revising Aberration, my YA sci-fi thriller. Last Monday, I turned that in to my agent*, so the past week has been all about my magical realism MS, which I’m calling Island simply because “that treasure hunting one” is too long.


What Works for Me: Sometimes, if I want to avoid a mass rewrite, I need to take a break from drafting to do a bit of planning. It’s something I did recently when I ran into major roadblock with my treasure hunt. The clues and the map and the geography of the land weren’t working together, and I had a maddening stone structure that was both purposeful and pointless.

I’m not even kidding when I say I spent three days alternating between furiously scribbling a treasure map, staring off into space, and randomly mumbling things like, “The slashed triangle can’t have five points.”

To which The Man would patiently reply, “You okay over there?” and I’d say, “Obviously no because there are stones on the island that need to be there but CANNOT POSSIBLY BE THERE.” And he’d just nod and put on his noise-cancelling headphones.

But it all worked out in the end because I broke through the mental block and now have a better treasure map for my teen treasure hunters to follow.


What Else I’ve Been Up To: The short answer is nothing. Revisions for my book happened at the same time as, at the day job, we went to press on our busiest issue of the year. So basically I worked around the clock for weeks. After that Monday, I pretty much zoned out for a good four days, catching up on Jane the Virgin, which I’ve just learned is one of my favorite shows on TV.

But I’ve also been thinking bookish thoughts. Specifically, thoughts about a certain book club that has been in hibernation recently. A wonderful reader reached out about joining in (hi, and welcome!) and other writer friends expressed interest in starting it up again. I’ve had such fun reading alongside people this month, I’m fully ready to give into the peer pressure.

I was thinking we’d read Red Queen, but I’m not tied to that idea, so if there’s another book you want to suggest, we can put it to a vote. But let’s stick to first-in-series novels released by March 1.

Can I get a show of hands (or, you know, comments below) of who would be interested in joining a March book club?**


* I honestly still can’t believe I get to say that.
** Here’s everything you need to know about the YA BookClub.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ruby Red Reread



I’ve decided to give in to one of my favorite obsessions even though The Man will probably call me crazy. But The Man always calls me crazy, especially when my obsessions lead me to
A) Reread that note a fifth time and wonder why email is like a preschool gift exchange. No take-backs.
 B) Skip “real life” to read a really good book.
But I’m going to give in because my love for Ruby Red is deep and powerful. Also, timely.

See, Sara Biren and Rebekah Faubion had this idea to reread the series and they were all “Hey Tracey might want in because she’s got that obsession thing.” And I was like, YOU’RE ENABLERS AND YES.


So we’re taking February to read Ruby Red.

We’ll be tweeting our reactions with the hashtag #RubyRedReread, and we want you to join in.

Right now, you may be thinking, “How can I reread a book I haven’t read yet?”

Which is really strange since I just thought about that. Maybe my telepathy is coming back.

Anyhow. First-time readers are welcome. 

Obviously we’ll behead anyone who reveals a spoiler. Or, because we’re not, like, the Queen of Hearts or the guy who did Marie Antoinette in, we’ll silently curse them to three spoiled books.

But wait, there’s more!


In March, we’ll read book No. 2, Sapphire Blue. In April, we’ll read book No. 3, Emerald Green.

In May we’ll be sad the series is over, but we won’t be THAT sad because it’ll be May and we’ll look outside and not see snow banks taller than trucks.

Who’s joining us?



Thursday, January 22, 2015

Huge News!!


VIA VOGUE AUSTRALIA
Here’s how this post goes:

[Insert boring intro you’re not going to read here.]

[A few more pointless things to really ratchet up the suspense]

[Endless ellipses to keep you scrolling]

And what you really want to know:

I have an agent!

I’m so very excited to announce I am now represented by Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency.

I’d tell you the whole story now, but it’s a bit hard to type while jumping up and down, and the Champagne is starting to spill, so… A post for a later date.

In the meantime, I’m going to celebrate by getting a teeth cleaning, because that’s how I roll.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In Which My Bookseller Sister Explains The Boxcar Children to a Parent



I don’t work in retail because I generally dislike people. Or at least shoppers. No, probably just people.

My sister, on the other hand, is much nicer than I am. She manages a Barnes & Noble, and not once has she punched someone in the face for asking for “that book I saw here last time; the one with the red cover.” I think this says a lot about her character.

This isn’t a story about customer stupidity. I thought you should know that right now in case you were getting all excited about hearing about the woman who couldn’t find the shelves with the Nook books.*

No, this is about a mother searching for a good book for her young child. It’s also about how difficult it can be to pitch a book off the cuff.

This happened a while ago, but I was reminded of it recently when I was describing trying to describe my WIP.
The woman was in her late 30s, early 40s. She was on the hunt for a book series her elementary school–age kid would enjoy. “What did you read at that age?” 
My sister rattled off a list of chapter book series, like the The Babysitters Club, Ramona Quimby, and Encyclopedia Brown. “And The Boxcar Children,” she said. 
“I’ve never heard of that one.” 
“Oh. We used to get them from the library all the time when we were little.” 
Libraries are like bookstores, but instead of buying the books, you borrow them for a short time. When I was young, pretty much everything we read came from the library. (This was in the prehistoric era, when there was no such thing as Amazon Prime and free two-day delivery.) 
“What’s it about?” The woman was interested now. My sister didn’t mean the mention of the series as a recommendation, but for some reason, this customer was hooked on The Boxcar Children. “Well, in the first book it’s this family of homeless kids—” 
“Homeless?” 
“Well, not really. The boxcar was their home. See, their parents died so they lived in empty train cars. They went on all these adventures. And I think they had to, like, steal food and bedding and stuff.** Or maybe they begged people for money to buy food. I can’t remember.” 
“So, hobo beggars?” 
“Yeah. They were real independent.” 
“And this is a children’s book?” 
By this point, my sister was wishing she never mentioned The Boxcar Children or at the very least had read it again at some point during the past two decades. “Yeah, but maybe there’s something else—” 
“That sounds horrible,” the customer said. 
“It’s really not. I just don’t remember it well.” 
“Child hobos.” 
“I think I explained it poorly. There are four kids and … Let me show you what else we have.”
The moral of this story is: Succinctly explaining the plot of a book is hard. Succinctly explaining the plot of a book you read 25 years ago is really, really hard.

This reminds me of those hilarious movie loglines that twist the plot but are surprisingly accurate. (Like this.) Leave yours in the comments.


* They’re on the Nook, in case you’re curious. Or online.

** As it turns out, this isn’t the case. Like the examples of moral excellence that they are, the children always ask before taking. (That knowledge thanks to this review.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

8 Terrible Titles


THIS COULD BE A SCENE IN MY WIP, I'LL SHAVE YOUR EYEBROWS.
PHOTO BY AKINORI ITO (VIA)
I was tagged by Katy Upperman to participate in the hilariously awesome “Terrible Titles” blog hop. She’s the author of the gripping Stare Out the Windshield (you can see her seven other terrible titles here).

Here’s how it works: Writers scroll through their manuscript and stop in random places. Whatever words/phrase the cursor lands on becomes one of eight terrible titles.

My current WIP, which I’m only halfway through drafting, is about a group of teens searching for a rumored treasure on Blackbird Island. I’ve been calling it Island WIP in my head, but now I have eight ready-made titles to choose from:
  1. A Very Tidy Kisser
  2. I’ll Shave Your Eyebrows
  3. I’m Cheapest In the Summer
  4. Worse Than Dirty Undies
  5. A Bite of Pop-Tart
  6. Making War With Acorns
  7. Stooped With Shame
  8. A Fantastic Dismissal

Honestly, I can’t see I’ll Shave Your Eyebrows as anything but a bestseller. I’m going to tag Alice, Jaime Morrow, and Liz Parker. May their titles be as terrible as mine.


Winners!
Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2014 YA Superlatives Blogfest. I’m sure you’re curious about the giveaway, so here it goes: The winners are Rachel at Beauty and the Bookshelf, Elodie Nowodazkij, Nicole at Quality Fangirls, and Sophie L. And thank you to Kelsey Macke, who’s donated her novel, Damsel Distressed, to a bonus winner: Sarah Chafin. Please contact Katy Upperman at katy[dot]upperman[at]live[dot]com!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 YA Superlative Blogfest: Best In Show



Well, guys, this is it. The very final day of the 2014 YA Superlative Blogfest. To everyone who’s participated, it’s been so fun reading about your favorite books. If you’re just joining in, so far I’ve picked my favorites for Head of the Class, Popularity Contest, and Elements of Fiction. And today we’re wrapping it up with Best In Show. 

As always, click book titles to head to the Goodreads page. And now, here are my favorites:



FAVORITE COVER
Shocker: I’m a huge fan of the typography trend in YA book cover design. Also a win in my book: gorgeous illustrations and simple or delicate covers. For more of my favorite book covers (for children’s and adult books), go here.


CUTEST COUPLE
I’m not going to say anything about these couples because to do so would be to reveal some major spoilers. But let’s just say each book has a couple I’m 100 percent behind.



MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED (OR, PICK A PRINTZ WINNER)
Like I said, I haven’t even read this yet, but based on Jandy Nelson’s writing and storytelling in The Sky Is Everywhere, I’m sure this one’s a Printz just waiting to happen.



MOST LIKELY TO MAKE YOU MISS YOUR BEDTIME (BOOK YOU JUST COULDN’T PUT DOWN!)

To be honest, every book makes me miss my bedtime. Once I’m sucked in, that’s it. The Man is not fond of this character flaw. I do remember this particular exchange one night while reading Kiss of Deception:
Me: Just one more chapter.
The Man: Fine. Tell me when you’re done.
Me: …
The Man: How’s that chapter coming?
Me: What huh? Chapter? Oh…it’s coming…
The Man: Long chapter, huh?
Me: Oh yeah, at least 50 pages…



BEST REPEAT PERFORMANCE (YOUR FAVORITE SEQUEL OR FOLLOW-UP)
Of the sequels I read, so many were really great. This was tops.



FAVORITE FINALE OR END OF SERIES NOVEL
I’ve been a fan of Warner since Shatter Me and especially after Destroy Me, so I was happy by the way this wrapped up with a happy ending for him. I was also a fan of Juliet’s transformation from a somewhat whiny girl in the first books to someone who stood up for herself at the end.



ROMANCE MOST WORTHY OF AN ICE BATH
Um, yeah.



BREAKOUT NOVEL (YOUR FAVORITE BOOK BY A DEBUT AUTHOR)
I won’t reiterate what I’ve already said about this book, but it was a surprisingly great read with a new setting and an insanely likable main character.



BEST OLD-TIMER (YOUR FAVORITE READ OF THE YEAR, PUBLISHED BEFORE 2014)
One of my favorite reads this year was the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. I devoured these books one after the other for the incredible world-building, three-dimensional characters, romance I was rooting for, and great plot. I highly recommend this series. And—bonus!—all of the books have been published so there’s no wait for the next in the series.



BOOK MOST LIKELY TO MAKE A GROWN MAN CRY
This one surprised me, mostly because no one was dying of cancer, and cancer books always make me bawl. But there were a few scenes where the main character, Michael, loses all that’s important to him, and they were heartbreaking. He exhibits such emotional restraint, which made me feel ALL THE EMOTIONS.



MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE (BEST BOOK YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU’D LIKE, BUT TOTALLY DID)
I’ll admit: I was a bit skeptical because, you know, cousins. And not How We Live Now cousins, who meet for the first time as strangers, but known-you-all-my-life cousins. It’s an icky subject, but I was surprised by how much I liked this story.



MOST CREATIVE USE OF A LOVE TRIANGLE
Here’s how it works: Our main character, Lia, flees to a village where she meets two men: the prince whose marriage she fled from and an assassin sent to kill her. She doesn’t know who’s who, and even though we get chapters from both the prince’s and assassin’s POVs, we don’t know who’s who. Basically brilliant.




SLEEPER HIT (BOOK YOU FOUND SO AWESOME YOU WISH IT HAD BEEN HYPED MORE)
How’s this for two books that are completely different but both worth a read? First, there’s Creed, which only just came out and is a fantastic horror novel. Then there’s Magnolia, which has a great romance and Deep South setting you’ll be able to feel.



FAVORITE OUTLIER (YOUR FAVORITE MIDDLE GRADE OR ADULT 2013 BOOK)
I beta read an incredible Freaky Friday–like manuscript (oh hello, Alison Miller), which got me craving another body swap story. The Swap is a middle grade novel about two former friends who wake up one day in each other’s bodies, and it’s funny and adorable.



BOOK THAT’S READY-MADE FOR HOLLYWOOD
I’m happy when my favorite books head to Hollywood, but when those books are gorgeously written, I worry the movie might not capture a lot of what made me love the story in the first place (I’m thinking of you, Scorpio Races). Other books seem perfect for the big screen, like Bright Before Sunrise, which is a YA Before Sunrise. There have been two more movies with the same setup, so it’s safe to say this book would do well as a movie.


First, link to your Best In Show post, below. Then enter our giveaway, below. We’ll pick four winners who will each receive one of our favorite 2014 YA novels. 






What 2014 book do you think would work well as a TV show or movie?